The Darkness: Hot Cakes Album Review
*England’s Glam Rock Goofballs retain their hard rock wit but still can’t top their killer début.
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Only The Darkness are ridiculous and cheeky enough to call an album “Hot Cakes”. But that’s what makes them so endearing.
The Darkness were sorely needed in the early 00’s. Between self-conscious hipster musicians and the malaise of the W presidency , they were a welcome reminder to embrace the ridiculous.
Their detractors were annoyed at their piss take on 70’s/80’s glam rock. But being that “This Is Spinal Tap” remains one of my favorite films, I was one of many fans.
Their début album “Permission To Land” is the rare thing; a perfect album. Not one bad song.
But then they imploded. “One Way Ticket To Hell…and Back” should’ve been a slam dunk. They recorded it with producer Roy Thomas Baker, a key sonic architect for the band Queen, a huge influence on the band. But the results were mixed, and many of the songs seemed to suffer under the lush production.
Then frontman Justin Hawkins went to rehab and quit the band. And that was it.
Until earlier this year, when the band regrouped. I saw them in concert recently (read my review), and was impressed with their live show.
But how does their new release “Hot Cakes” stack up (pun intended) with their back catalogue?
Overall it’s more satisfying than “One Way”. They wisely have gone back to their production style of “Permission To Land”; rawer, but still indulging in multitracked guitars and Hawkins’ otherworldly falsetto.
The opener “Every Inch of You” epitomizes the bands welding of classic AC/DC style riffing and Hawkins’ Freddy Mercury-ish vocals. The singer’s knack for humorous lyrics remains intact : “I wanted to be a Doctor, I wanted to be a vet, until I heard “Communication Breakdown” on a TDK-90 cassette”.
The second track “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” is the first single, but it’s the weakest song on the album, a half hearted piano driven Queen’ish tune. Likewise “Everybody Have A Good Time” is a bit of a bland party anthem.
But its uphill from here. “Living Each Day Blind” is a grandiose power ballad with Brian May style guitars and a catchy chorus with great harmonized vocals from Hawkins.
“She Just A Girl, Eddie” is glam perfection, with slight Brit-pop leanings (ala Pulp). Hawkins is a truly great guitar soloist and shows off his skills here.
The power ballad “Forbidden Love” is a standout track, with a killer melodic chorus that you can’t get out of your head. The closing track “Love Is Not The Answer” continues in this vein, but it shows a gloomier side of the band, with Hawkins lamenting; “Love Is not for the faint hearted, you turn your back and then it’s gone”.
Throughout the album rhythm guitarist Dan Hawkins, bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Ed Graham keep their tight classic rock groove intact.
I do wish there were more heavy songs ala “Black Shuck” and “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” off “Permission”. “Concrete” is a solid rocker though, with a dramatic chorus that finds Hawkins’ searching for love: “Searching for a sweet little woman to share a little body heat”.
Their heaviest song is their unlikely yet amazing cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” where the dour faced anthem gets a hilarious, Iron Maiden style makeover. (They also sneak the guitar line from “Just” during one of the verses too). It’s one of the best covers I’ve ever heard. Ridiculous and awesome in equal measure.
Some may disagree, but I find the world a better place with The Darkness in it. “Hot Cakes” can’t top “Permission To Land” but it proves this band has plenty of life left in them. Let’s hope they make it last this time. If you can see them live, DO. You will have a blast.
**You can preview and purchase the special edition with extra tracks from iTunes below, or clicking at the album cover up top will take you to Amazon.